A unique piece of Colorado history here in Teller County is receiving some desperately needed TLC. The Colorado Midland Railroad Depot at Divide is one of the few remaining buildings from Teller County’s railroading era that is still standing. It will continue to do so thanks to the dedication of the Teller Historic and Environmental Coalition and the Palmer Land Trust.
The Divide Depot was built in 1904 to replace the town’s first train depot, which burned down. The building served both the Colorado Midland Railroad built in 1897, which ran east and west through the mountains, and the Midland Terminal which served the Cripple Creek Mining District. The Midland Terminal was the second railroad to reach Cripple Creek on July 4, 1895, starting service just a few days after their competitor, the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad, reached the golden city.
The Colorado Midland and the Midland Terminal shared track from Colorado Springs to Divide, but just east of the depot the track split and the Midland Terminal went south into the mining district. Its route was from Divide south to Gillett and Cameron and then over Victor Pass. From there the train continued to Victor, and then it went to Elkton, Anaconda, and Cripple Creek, stopping at the big red brick depot that is now the Cripple Creek District Museum. Four trains a day passed through Divide on the way to Cripple Creek and back, carrying both passengers and gold ore for the mills in Colorado City. The main line of the Colorado Midland Railroad went west from Divide to Florissant and Lake George, through Eleven Mile Canyon, across South Park through the future lake bottom of Eleven Mile Reservoir and on to Leadville.
The line crossed the continental divide between Leadville and Basalt and continued on to Glenwood Springs and Newcastle. In addition to passenger service, the line shipped produce from the Grand Valley, and silver ore from Aspen and Leadville. The railroad depot in Divide went out of service in 1949, when the Midland Terminal went out of business. The train quit running after the Carlton Mill was built, which processed gold ore locally in the gold camp, ending the need to ship ore down to Colorado Springs. The Colorado Midland Railroad had already folded its tents back in 1918 after failing to meet government shipping contracts during World War I. In the early 1920s the railroad tracks of the defunct Colorado Midland Railroad were pulled up and most of its buildings torn down. The Divide Depot was saved from destruction by its continuing service to the Midland Terminal. It was sold to the Weaver family around 1950. The Weavers used it as a residence and an antique store for many years. Early on, they replaced the big double baggage doors on the south wall of the depot with a wooden wall. Later owners used the old building as a bar called the Whistle Stop. An annex was built on the west end as the owner’s residence around 1985. The Whistle Stop closed in the early 1990s and the building has not been used since then.
The Teller Historic and Environmental Coalition got involved with the Divide Depot shortly after the group was organized in 2000. In cooperation with the Palmer Land Trust, the T.H.E. was able to get the property designated as a county historic site, which eventually paved the way for state funding and the current restoration work. The biggest physical threat to the building is its rotting foundation. Over the years, the space under the floor had completely filled with earth and mud. The original floor supports, which were literally wooden stumps, were rotting away and being damaged by freezing in the winter. As a result, the center of the building and the northwest corner had sunk down. To attack this problem, the century-old building is going to be lifted up on jacks in order to replace its decaying foundation with a new one. Metal supports will be inserted under the floor as braces to lift the structure. Inside, the building has been filled with angled boards to support the walls during the lift and the old brick chimney has been encased in plywood. The original floor joists have been excavated from the mud and replaced or reinforced as needed. Cement pads will be poured below the new floor supports. The outside of the building will be rebuilt with treated wood up to the top of the frost line. If all goes as planned, the restoration work on the building is slated to be finished around January 2013.
The T.H.E. then hopes to recreate the depot’s original floor plan including two ticket windows, a telegraph office, a waiting room, and the baggage room. The building may be used as a museum of local railroad and agricultural history, and an office and visitor for the Divide Chamber of Commerce with public restrooms, picnic tables, and a link to the nearby hiking trail at Hayden Divide Park.